Until four years ago, I felt like there was nobody else who thought like I did. I didn’t know there was such a thing as disability rights or disability pride. I felt like a burden, and neurologically inferior.
That all changed in January 2009. That’s when I discovered the book Born on a Blue Day. The author’s thoughts echoed my own very strongly. It was as though that book was written to tell me a message. That I am not inferior to anyone. That there are other people whose inner mental workings are a lot like mine. That I don’t have to be ashamed of my neurology.
The author of this book, Daniel Tammet, has been a fascination of mine since then. It’s a real gift to find a story where the author seems to be reading your mind.
In June 2009, I got on Facebook. Facebook has been a haven for me and other autistic people. It’s where I met some of my very favorite people, like my boyfriend Zach and someone whom I call Penguin. Penguin and Zach are also autistic. I don’t use Facebook the way I think non-autistic people do. The way I use it is to connect with other autistic people and our allies. It removes communication barriers that we often struggle with offline, like body language. It’s easier to read an emoticon than a facial expression.
In June 2010, I started going to Autreat. Autreat is an autism-positive conference designed for and by autistic people. I got to meet autistics who had made a name for themselves, like Jim Sinclair and Ari Ne’eman. I also participated in the young adult ceremony which I feel solidified my role as a member of the community.
Since then, I have been able to delve into other obsessions, namely the Apollo moon missions forty-some years ago. This is my favorite part of being autistic. We may not be able to describe how studying our obsessions feels, but it is so euphoric, in my experience, that I’d never want it taken away from me. That’s a unique kind of joy limited to the world of autistics. Where you fall in love with a topic. At Autreat, Monday night is special interest night, where we can share our obsessions with each other. Visiting neurotypicals (“normal” people) can often hear the excitement in our voices.
Diversity makes the world go round. Neurodiversity too. Curing us would rid the world of its most interesting citizens. I want to cure ignorance and closed-mindedness about the neurodiverse. My obsessions are for sharing, not for eliminating. Not for preventing. You can’t take away autism without erasing people like me and my friends.